Now Reports

Hakata Dontaku 2022 Guide

Dontaku, derived from the Dutch word Zondag (holiday), is one of the largest festivals in Japan, attracting two million spectators (pre-pandemic.) This year the event will be held on a reduced scale. On May 3 & 4, the event begins with the Hakata Matsubayashi procession, which has celebrated the new year for the last 840 years. Daytime performances on 17 stages follow that, and, in the evening, illuminated “Flower Cars” (decorated vehicles) roll through the streets.

Hakata Dontaku, 博多どんたく港まつり Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka

Hakata Dontaku 2022 Event Schedule

4/28 (Thu.)
Dontaku Hakata Day

5/2 (Mon.)
Eve of ceremony

5/3 (Tue., hol.)
Opening Ceremony

5/4 (Wed., hol.)
Grand Finale: So Odori
Dontaku Flower Marching Bands

5/3 (Tue., hol.) & 5/4 (Wed., hol.)
Hakata Matsubayashi Parade
Dontaku Parades
Stage Performances
Flower Cars
Hakata-ekimae Dontaku Street
Patrol Vessel “Yashima” open to the public

Dontaku Trivia
• Origins of Dontaku
• A True Citizen’s Festival
• Hakata Matsubayashi
• Dontaku Symbols
• Dontaku Song
• Flower Cars
• Official Goods

2018 Hakata Dontaku video by Madalina Iosub for Fukuoka Now

Dontaku Hakata Day

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (vs. Saitama Seibu Lions) game on April 28 will be Dontaku Hakata Day, a pre-Dontaku celebration. All home visitors will receive a “Hakata Bag” containing Dontaku Hakata Day Original Cheering Harisen and other items. Dontaku Hakata Day will open with a Dontaku dance performance. The first pitch will be thrown by “Kogaken,” a pinball comedian from Kurume, and the stage performance by HKT48 will liven up the dome before the game. After the game, regardless of the winner or loser, a fireworks display will be held to the accompaniment of the Hakata hand clap.

• 4/28 (Thu.)
• Match starts 18:00
• Fukuoka PayPay Dome

Eve of ceremony

Event celebrating the holding of “Hakata Dontaku”.This year’s special stage will feature singer Yoko Takahashi.

• 5/2 (Mon.): 16:00~19:30 *approx
• Venue: Festival main stage (Fureai Hiroba, Fukuoka City Hall)
• Entrance tickets were free *tickets will no longer be distributed.

Opening Ceremony

The Fukuoka City Mayor, along with festival organizers, makes opening remarks to kick off the festival.

• 5/3 (Tue., hol.)
• 10:00~
• Venue: Main stage in front of Hakata Sta. (JR Hakata Sta.)

Hakata Matsubayashi Parade

This parade is the origin of the festival – it hasn’t changed much in 840 years! It is led by three gods of fortune riding on horseback and a group of dancing children.

• 5/3 (Tue., hol.), 5/4 (Wed., hol.)
• 9:00~17:00
• Venue: Departs from Kushida Shrine (1-41 Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka)

Dontaku Parades

March along the parade route in vibrant costumes with lively music and dancing. This year, since spectators are asked to refrain from watching along the street, the event will be streamed live on the official Hakata Dontaku YouTube. And – on May 3, Kyushu Live will also do a livestream (in English!)

• 5/3 (Tue., hol.) 13:05~17:00, 5/4 (Wed., hol.) 15:05~18:00

Dontaku Flower Marching Bands

Marching bands of students, companies and government agencies perform.

• 5/4 (Wed., hol.)
• 17:00~18:20
• Venue: Festival main stage (Fureai Hiroba, Fukuoka City Hall)

Hakata-ekimae Dontaku Street

Bitesize Hakata versions of the Dontaku parades, traveling 150 m from Hakata-ekimae 2-chome Intersection towards the river.

• 5/3 (Tue., hol.): 10:00~11:30
• 5/4 (Wed., hol.): 10:00~13:00
• Venue: Hakata Ekimae-dori
• Program:

Flower Cars

Four vibrantly decorated large trucks known as “Flower Cars” cruise through the city. Brilliantly illuminated at night. In 2022, two flower cars, one named “Momotaro” with a wish to blow away Corona, and the other named “Softbank Hawks & Avispa” which always bring energy to Fukuoka, will travel around the city. You can check the current location of the flower cars with the “Nisshitetsu Flower Car Navi”.

• 5/2 (Tue., hol.) ~ 5/4 (Wed., hol.)
• 5/2: 15:55~19:55, 5/3: 10:30~20:30, 5/4: 10:35~20:40
• Route: Around the Fukuoka City
• Operation Map:
• Nishitetsu Flower Car Navi:

Stage Performances

Groups participate in traditional and contemporary music, dance, song, and other performances at 17 stages around the city.

• 5/3 (Tue., hol.), 5/4 (Wed., hol.)
• Hours vary according to each performance

Patrol Vessel “Yashima” Public Viewing

Visitors can tour the Japan Coast Guard Patrol Vessel “Yashima” (scheduled to be equipped with a rescue helicopter) and observe ranger training by a mobile rescue officer.

• 5/3 (Tue., hol.) 13:00~15:00, 5/4 (Wed., hol.) 9:00~15:00
• Free viewing
• Chuo Pier, mooring quay for patrol vessel Yashima (No.9)

Grand Finale: So Odori

This event is the finale of Hakata Dontaku. To prevent the spread of the new corona infection, the public will NOT be invited to join in.

• 5/4 (Wed., hol.)
• 19:00~19:25
• Venue: Festival main stage

Hakata Dontaku Trivia

Origins of Dontaku

The name Dontaku comes from the Dutch word for holiday (Zondag).

The origins of Hakata Dontaku can be traced back 840 years to the establishment of the Matsubayashi Parade. This has since developed into a fun celebration that is organized by Hakata locals. The event later became known as the Fukuoka Shimin Matsuri (Citizen’s Festival) since 1962.

Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka

Matsubayashi and Dontaku were suspended for eight years during the Second World War. However, the events resumed in 1946 soon after the end of the war to help rejuvenate Fukuoka. It is said that the sound of people marching through the rubble helped restore confidence among the locals. The following year, the Fukuoka Chamber of Commerce and Industry​ helped organize the first full-scale post-war Dontaku Festival.

A True Citizen’s Festival

On May 3 and 4 this area buzzes with activity when about 753 groups of paraders and performers, totalling more than 38,000 people, participate in Dontaku. Groups and individuals from all over Kyushu descend on Fukuoka to join these parades: local citizens’ associations, schools, private companies, small businesses, marching bands and drum majorettes – all dancing freely in the street while showcasing their unique costumes and talents. Several international groups will share their own cultures whilst marching in the parades. This inclusion of overseas visitors fits very well with Dontaku’s current theme – celebrating Japan’s diversity – and is an occasion for people from all walks of life to meet and wish each other well.

While the highlight of the festival may be the two parades, Dontaku includes a variety of other entertainment, including floats, nighttime illuminations, food stalls and stage shows. Around 30 stages are erected throughout the city, an opportunity for thousands of people to take turns performing traditional dances, folk songs and contemporary music. Closing the two-day festival are rousing renditions of the Dontaku dance that spectators are invited to participate in. The intriguing mix of ancient traditions and modern exuberance make Dontaku a festival unlike any other in Kyushu – a unique blend of past and present, much like Japan itself!

Hakata Matsubayashi

This parade is the origin of the festival – it hasn’t changed much in 840 years! It departs at 8:50 from Kushida Shrine on May 3 (Fri.) and May 4 (Sat.). This colorful procession is led by three gods of fortune riding on horseback: Fukurokuju (god of long life), Ebisu (god of business) and Daikoku (god of wealth). They’re accompanied by a group of dancing children, who, in case the gods get above themselves, sing the special festival chant ‘iitate.’ In their wake follow thousands of local people in traditional dress, all performing the Matsubayashi custom of greeting each other through song and dance. This procession has remained unchanged since the Middle Ages and has been designated an Intangible Cultural Property by Fukuoka Prefecture. This group also leads the main Dontaku Parade on May 4.

Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka

Dontaku Symbols

The Dontaku Festival might not conjure up images as iconic as July’s Yamakasa Festival (no loincloths here!), yet some images are closely associated with it. The following three items in particular can be found on many Dontaku tourist brochures, magazine covers and souvenirs, making them unofficial Dontaku symbols.

Shamoji: All throughout the parade participants can be seen clapping these spoons to the beat of traditional music. But how exactly did an ordinary Japanese kitchen utensil, used to stir and serve rice, end up in this festival? The explanation goes that the shamoji evokes the image of a housewife busy preparing a meal, rushing out to join the passing parade!

Niwaka Mask: This mask is used in Hakata Niwaka, a style of traditional improvisational comedy performed at festivals. The term niwaka itself is said to stem from a local rice cracker brand called Niwaka Senbei, which contained a half mask in its box to be put on during niwaka performances. This way the comedian, who poked fun at established social conventions in witty Hakata dialect, could cleverly hide his identity from those he satirized!

Photo: Fukuoka Convention & Visitors Bureau

Flower Hat: While the festival sports a huge variety of groups, each with their favorite costumes, one outfit choice that recurs often is the hanakasa, or flower hat. The origin of the flower hat is unknown – but what fashionable girl wouldn’t want to crown her cap with roses?

Dontaku Song

The Dontaku theme song “Bonchikawaiya” has seven verses but we’ve limited ourselves to including just the first one. Sing along as the parade passes and stun the locals with your knowledge of all things Dontaku!

“Bonchi Kawaiya Nenneshiya
Shinagawajoroshu wa Jumonme
Jumonme no Teppodama
Tamaya ga kawa e Supponpon”

If you’re interested, read about the history of the Dontaku song here!

Flower Cars
The parades of gorgeously decorated Flower Cars, hana jidosha, form an integral part of the Dontaku festivities. Two vehicles, each decorated with about 10,000 artificial flowers, approx. 1,200 LED and original designs that change every year, animate the festival atmosphere. Originally, tramways were used, but they were replaced by automobiles when tram service was suspended in 1977. At night the cars, illuminated by so many bulbs, are a splendid sight.

Hakata Dontaku Guide - Flower Car 2022, 博多どんたく 2022年の花自動車

Car No. 1: Momotaro
Car No. 2: Hawks & Avispa
Official Map and Schedule (Japanese)

Festival Food

Seasoned foreigners who’ve visited many matsuri have doubtlessly already acquainted themselves with Japanese festival fare. For those less familiar with these culinary delights, here are three local favorites.

Ringo-ame: Visitors with a sweet tooth won’t be able to resist the promised sugar high of these candied apples on a stick, coated with a hot red syrup that dries hard. The result is a translucent, bright red glaze, a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds! Other versions such as ichigo-ame (glazed strawberries) are on offer in season. Don’t break your teeth!

Ikayaki: This grilled squid snack, marinated in a sugary soy sauce, is great for munching on as you walk through the streets. Don’t take too much time chewing though – its texture becomes rubbery as it cools, making it hard work for your jaw!

Hashimaki: A type of okonomiyaki (savory pancake) popular at festivals is hashimaki – literally translated as “chopstick roll”. The okonomiyaki is served rolled (maki) around a pair of chopsticks (hashi) and topped with mayonnaise, seaweed flakes (nori) and fish flakes (katsuo). It’s eaten much like a corndog and is easy to enjoy on the go.

Official Goods

Original Dontaku goods will be on sale, such as special Dontaku edition Hakata wood charms (kifuda), folding fans (sensu) designed by well-known, Hakata-born graphic designer Isao Nishijima, writing paper (ippitsusen) and more. Great for souvenirs!

• Fukuoka Citizen’s Festival, 50th Anniversary book: ¥2,500 (limit 500 books)
• Original Hakata wood charm (kifuda): ¥500/pc
• Writing paper (ippitsusen): ¥300/pc
• Illustrated postcards: ¥450/set (5 pcs.)
• Hand towel (tenugui): ¥500/pc
• Wooden spoon (shamoji) w/ illustration: ¥1,000/set (2 pcs.)
• Wooden spoon (shamoji) w/ burnt seals: ¥500/set (2 pcs.)
• Original folding fan (sensu): ¥2,000/pc
• Hakata Dontaku Festival Original CD: ¥1,000
• Lucky bag (fukubukuro): ¥500/set
• Hakata playing cards (karuta): ¥2,160/set

Sold during the festival period at the Dontaku information counters in the following locations:
• Parco
• JR Hakata Station
• ACROS Fukuoka

Also sold year-round (some items only) at the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum.

2012 Dontaku video by Dennis Medvevchikov for Fukuoka Now

Hakata Dontaku
Organizer: Fukuoka Citizens’ Festival Promotion Association (Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Fukuoka Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Originally written in April 2016, updated April 2022.
Copyright Fukuoka Now – including all text, photos and illustrations. Permission required to re-use in any form. Meanwhile, feel free to link to this page.

NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by the Fukuoka Now staff. While we have done our best to check for accuracy, there might be errors and details may have changed. If you notice any errors or changes, please contact us. This report was originally written in Apr. 2016.

Seasonal Guide
Fukuoka City
Published: Apr 28, 2022 / Last Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.